the barn in fall

the barn in fall

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

When You Just Have To Kill Something


Cats are meant to kill things.  Cat owners know this.  We give them stuffed toy mice so little Fluffy can pretend to kill them.  If our cats go outside, their owners are blessed with real mice on their doorstep, or pieces of them.  Sometimes it's just a head.  Sometimes a tail - it's a matter of taste.

Harley wants to kill things.  Badly.  But I don't allow Harley to go outside.  She's little, which might make her vulnerable to predators despite her badass leather jacket and switchblade.  Also, I have a large enough collection of headless rodents from the cats who do go outside.  But toy mice just don't do it for Harley, not even the ones stuffed with catnip.  In her heart, she knows she is made for tougher game.  So she went to the basement to hunt . . . (ominous music) . . . something different.

And she found it.  High on the storage shelves, standing on boxes of baby toys and Christmas ornaments, she found game so fearsome even the toughest cat might hesitate to rip into it - insulation.  Pockets and pockets of it, stuffed between the floor joists along the top of the basement walls.  For several weeks we've heard the plaintive meow that announces a kill as Harley comes upstairs dragging a mouthful of pink fiberglass.

I spent days cutting out squares of cardboard and fitting them over each space between the joists, covering the insulation.  New hunting grounds were found, but after three or four weeks, the fiberglass kills stopped.  That's when the potatoes started appearing.  I keep my open bag of potatoes at the bottom of the basement stairs, where they stay cool.  Harley has begun killing them.  First the odd stray potato, then on a regular basis each night, carrying her potatoes upstairs and leaving her "kills" in the kitchen for me to admire each morning.

We're not talking cute little red potatoes.  We're talking Idahoes, a good four inches and up, which is a hefty mouthful for a little cat.  I've tried to get a picture, but Harley is a stealthy hunter, and doesn't announce her kills until she's ready to drop them on the floor.  Then, you know how it is - who wants to pick up a dead potato?  I can't even get her to pose with her trophy in her mouth.  But she did show me how she beat one of them into submission, briefly re-enacting the death scene:

I believe that slightly insane look is normal when bringing down a wild potato.

Below: a rare shot of pink fiberglass in the feral state, alongside a dead potato.







Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Rock, Part 3 - Don't Be A Sisyphus!

Are you up on your Greek mythology?  Sisyphus was doomed to spend eternity rolling a big rock uphill, only to have it roll back down, forcing him to start over.  I'm sure it's supposed to be an object lesson, or maybe a profound truth.  Lately, it gives me nightmares.

I have my Rock and it's ready to roll uphill.  Maybe.  I'm not sure the slope is gradual enough - I'll have to check with my neighbor who owns the heavy equipment and has some experience with Sisyphus-like endeavors.  I want to pull my Rock out ONE TIME, so I have to make sure I get it right.

This is how it looks now, with a section of lawn cut away, sloping sharply down to it.  The back of the rock is more exposed so we can get chains around it, but you can't see that.  My craziness stands on the brink of becoming reality!  Maybe!

 

Monday, August 29, 2011

Mowing Grass, With Horses

You can tell the lawn mower just went by the fence.  Nothing better than having someone cut up your food and toss it in front of you, ready to eat.  We don't use any chemical fertilizers or herbicides on the lawn, so when there's enough to rake, they each get a bushel-sized pile of clippings in addition to what shoots under the pasture fence.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Posting Comments

Tried to leave a comment and couldn't?  Guess what?  Me, too.  Blogger says I don't have a Google address.  WTF?  I do too, plus a blog.  My research showed a ton of bloggers with this problem, and no posted solution. 

This is the only thing I know that has worked - sign in with the profile "anonymous" or "name/URL".  If that doesn't work, email me at starrambrose@gmail.com because I'd like to know so I can yell at someone.  As soon as I figure out who.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Rock, Part 2 - Like An Egg

Something has changed since I first started digging out The Rock - mosquitos.  The manure-enriched weeds around My Precious harbor hoards of the hungry suckers, and digging requires a blood sacrifice.  I'm not that generous with my vital juices, so I haven't made much progress.  But I discovered one important thing - The Rock is not like an iceberg, with most of its mass still lurking below the surface.  It's round like an egg, and I've uncovered the curve that proves it:

The shovel isn't stuck in the dirt at all, that front section has all been cleared of dirt.  A flat rock would have been nice, but I'll take round over the monolith that could have been there.

Oh!  But on the other hand, if it had been a monolith, and it started emiting a high-pitched whine, I'd REALLY be onto something epic!  But then the government would get involved and you know what happened to Elliot and ET when the government stepped in, so I'm better off with my simple granite egg.  No one's taking my rock from me.

(Above paragraph for me and the sci-fi geeks only.)

Weather reports promise cooler days the rest of the week.  More digging ahead soon, I hope!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Putting Up Hay

We've got a small operation, as farms go - no crops, just a few animals.  So putting up hay for the horses for winter means taking my horse trailer out to Farmer Bob's REAL farm, and loading up bales of (mostly) second cutting hay.  I make three trips and get about 80 bales each time, 70 in the 4-horse stock trailer, and 10 more in the pickup bed. 



The horses LOVE seeing that trailer back into their barn with a full load of hay.  They have free access to their stalls at all times, so they crowd in there and watch the whole unloading procedure.  Fritz nickers about it, sort of a continual "Give me some.  Come on, just a little," even though he can't chew it well with the few teeth he has left, and he'll mostly get hay cubes soaked in water - like eating hay mush.  But he's still operating on memory, and he's always talked about his food.  I recorded a bit of it, while Remi was crowded into his stall with his good buddy Fritz:

video

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Coolest Gift Ever!

I told you all in the previous blog what I wouldn't get for my anniversary,  so I have to tell you what I did get, and I just hope I can convey how incredibly cool this gift was!

It relates to my novels - big points for hubby right there for understanding how much they mean to me.  And I have to explain the context because the gift relates to novels that aren't out yet - SILVER SPARKS, to be released Nov. 30th, and the sequel, possibly titled GOLD FIRE, that even my editor hasn't seen yet.  But my husband is my first beta reader and my number one fan, and he obviously pays close attention. 

The first book opens at a swanky ski resort, the Alpine Sky, in the fictional Rocky Mountain town of Barringer's Pass, Colorado, and the resort plays a large part in the plot.  In the sequel, the resort is trying to buy out an old honky tonk, the Rusty Wire Saloon, in order to build a golf course.  The eager owner even has a clothing line ready to go, and a dark blue polo shirt bearing the resort's double-mountain logo has a minor appearance in the story.  At the Rusty Wire, the wait staff is in casual dress - white T-shirts and jeans. 

All fictitious places, but very real to me.

So this is what my sweetheart of a husband had made for me:



He even got the Alpine Sky logo right, exactly as I imagined it. And if I'd described the white T-shirts at the Rusty Wire, they would have looked exactly like the ones he had made!  He gave me 4 different styles and sizes to be sure one of them fit.  So I think when the books are released, I have the perfect prizes for a contest on my web site.  I may even have more made up - I love these shirts!  Love the man who gave them to me, too!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Anniversary

I did a head count today of all the animals on the farm:
Horses - 3
Chickens - 4
Dogs - 1
Cats, both barn and house - 13

Every cat and dog was a rescue of some sort, either a stray that found its way here, or an animal I was handed and just couldn't say no to.  Some have weird rescue stories - I'll save that for another day.  It was enough today just to see that grand total and flinch.  I am grateful we have the room to do this, and to my husband for putting up with my penchant for rescuing animals in need!

Yesterday was my anniversary, but my husband was out of town so we're celebrating today.  Two things I KNOW I won't get: a kitten or a puppy.  And that's okay!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Burn Pile

My ROCK should start a fan club.  This past week I've been asked if I have my rock out yet, by people I didn't even know read this blog.  What have I gotten into?

To dig out the rock, I need the trailer to put dirt in.  Which means I have to get rid of the moldy hay currently in the trailer.  Which means I need to throw the hay on the burn pile.  The burn pile is in the pasture, so to make sure the horses don't get into moldy hay, I have to burn the whole pile right away.  Easy, right?  Ha!  No.

If my husband did this job, he'd stuff some paper in between the dead sticks, throw the hay on top, and set it on fire.  Whoosh!  Twenty foot-high flames.  A bit outside the fire code, but who around here really cares?  No one. 

Except me.  That burn pile - two of them actually - have been sitting there for a year, drying out.  The perfect shelter for bunnies, mice, skunks, and ground hogs.  No way am I going to have toasted bunnies on my conscience.  So I laboriously move every limb and tangled vine to a new pile, burning them as I go - a nice, responsibly small fire.  (Yes, a girly fire.  Girls are responsible; suck it, guys.)  Going through both piles takes a good hour and a half, not counting forty-five minutes in the middle to recover from heat stroke.
And how many bunnies did I find?  None.  But I did uncover one large garter snake that slithered farther into the pile before I could whip my camera out.  To help you play Where's Waldo, I cropped out most of the burn pile.  If you look closely you can see her yellow striped black body weaving through the brush.

So I sweated in the August heat for 90 minutes to save a snake.  Was it worth it?  Heck, yeah.  (Hello, do you know me?)  And now my trailer is free so I can start digging out that rock.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Rock!

I'm writing, but well ahead of deadline and taking care of jobs around here.  Hence, a story about today's project.

I needed dirt to fill the depressed areas of lawn around our silver maples, and I had two options:  I could order a yard or two of topsoil, or I could dig up as much free black dirt as I needed from the bottom of my manure pile.  Lovely stuff.  Being cheap, I went with option two.

I scraped aside the weeds and loose wood shavings on top, then started digging.  The first shovelful hit rock about three inches below the surface - not an unusual occurrence around here.  I moved the shovel and tried again, looking for the edge of the rock so I could dig it out.  And hit rock again.  Moved the shovel again; still hit rock.  Now, you'd have to be a total rock nerd like me to understand how my rock-senses started tingling.  This was a big rock.  A specimen rock of the type people set in pretty landscaped areas so other people can drive by and admire their big honkin' rock.  I love those rocks.  I began digging in earnest.

After moving four trailer loads of dirt, I hadn't uncovered even half of this rock.  But it is MINE, and you may admire my rock in it's natural state:

Oh yeah, baby, that's what I call a rock!  Here's a more seductive close-up:


Yowzers!

I might never be able to move this sucker, but I'm not giving up.  I want this rock!  If my pickup truck can't move it, my neighbor has heavy equipment that can.  I have awhile to figure it out - the rock has been there since the glaciers melted, and isn't going anywhere.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Writer's Block

I could ignore the furry body between the keyboard and the monitor - I'm used to writing like that.

I could even ignore the lazy change in position that put a foot on the corner of the screen.


But when TC decided it was bath time, it was too much.  I called a temporary writer's block and took a break.

Monday, August 1, 2011

No Cats on My Hot Tin Roof

They're smart enough to stay off it when it's a bright, humid 90 degrees outside.  I'm not.

Our heat spell was broken up by a couple nights of torrential rain, enough to remind me that if I don't fix the leaks in my barn roof, I'll end up throwing away several bales of damp, moldy hay.  So hot or not, I climbed up there with my tube of neoprene sealant and looked for holes - which don't exist.  So I sealed seams that appeared perfectly tight, and covered nail heads that look flush with the roof, and got a fast 20-minute sunburn on my neck and arms.  Because Tennessee Williams knew what he was talking about - tin roofs are HOT.

The horses were inside, hiding from giant, evil horse flies (see blog about them here), but got concerned about the footsteps overhead, and came out.  I took a picture of Fritz and Remi from the edge of the roof.  The hand-size swelling on Remi's side behind his shoulder is from a fly bite.  He has several on his flanks, large lumps with a scab at the center.  Just like with mosquitos and people, there's always some poor guy who gets twice as many bites as everyone else.  That's Remi.